Angel threw her clipboard across the room. It rattled onto the floor with a loud thud. “Are you all so incompetent?” She shrieked. “I don’t understand how we could be sealed into this Watcher forsaken place!”
“Why are you blaming us?” Frost asked. “We didn’t tell the council to throw down their iron fist and lock our dimension.”
“I want to know why we weren’t alerted,” Angel snarled. “Why were we the last to know?” She walked over to the table stacked high with paperwork. She pushed the first pile onto the floor with an angry fervor. “Does Declan and his lackeys not think we’re good enough? Are we not intimidating enough?”
“Angel, please…” Zerg placed his hands in front of him in an effort to calm the irate woman down.
“None of you get it, do you?” Angel demanded. “Do you not know what this means? We’re not being taken seriously. We need to change that.” She whirled around, letting out an angry huff. “Roxanne, I need someone who is not so faint at heart. I need a warrior. Are you up for the task?”
Roxanne smirked, pumping her fist into the air. “It’s about damn time that you pick me for a big mission. What’s the plan?”
“Come, step into my office and we’ll talk.”
Peyton drummed her fingers on her thighs. Today was the big day. She could feel her nerves bubbling inside of herself. “Daddy, what if I don’t get the job?”
“If you don’t get the job, you’ll just have to pick yourself up and try again. Are you sure this is what you want to do with your life? Politics?” Jeffrey placed a comforting hand on her left shoulder. He was glad they had all stopped talking about missing memories. He knew that Peyton couldn’t stop living her life and trying to make an impact on this world and it’s people no matter what. He was sure she was destined for great things. And though everything might not have made complete sense, she was a light sparkling in the darkness of Fortitude.
“What’s wrong with that, dad?” Tommy asked, sprawling his legs across the coffee table as he collapsed onto the couch next to the pair. “Kiddo, you’ll do great. Maybe you’ll be the one to make sense of everything.”
“You think so?” Peyton asked. Her eyes lit up. It was weird. A few years ago, this would have been Emerson by her side, calming her nerves. Now, her twin was nowhere to be seen and in her place was her brother from a different dimension. It was a wild concept. “Thank you.”
“It’s not that I don’t think you’ll do well,” Jeffrey began. “It’s just that politics is a rough game, especially when you’re one of the only humans among supernaturals who’ve been here for centuries. It’s going to be a very hard fight.”
“I’m ready for it,” Peyton replied. Though, it looked like something weighed heavily on her mind. “Well…sort of. I’m sort of ready for it.”
“What do you mean by that?” Tommy asked. “You’ve prepared for months. You’ve got this in the bag.”
“It’s just…should I be worrying about this while so much is going on? We don’t know where our family is and our memories…I should be helping us get through our issues at home,” Peyton replied.
“You can’t,” Jeffrey said softly. “We can’t stop living our lives. We’re going to find mom, we’re going to find your siblings and we’re going to find Briella. We’re going to make sense of all of this. But if we can’t, I need to know that you’ll still have a life. You won’t be lost.”
Peyton gulped loudly, wiping her sweaty hands on her dress. “Daddy, I know we have to keep moving but can’t we stop and just look around for a moment?”
“Let us worry about that,” Tommy said. “You’re young, you have a long life ahead of you. Kal’s dad is coming over later and we’re going to talk about things. Whatever things are happening, and uh…get it sorted out. But dad is right. You can’t give up on changing these people’s minds. Someone has to do it. Back in my old dimension, there was a woman who hated humans so much that she tried to change them into supernaturals. We had strong leadership fighting against that and I know in my heart they stopped her. We don’t have Adam here, so you’ll need to step up and teach people about acceptance.”
“Any more buts?” Jeffrey asked. “Do you have any other doubts in your mind?”
“Of course I do,” Peyton said. “So many doubts. Just a few days ago, I was completely content about my life. I was happy to be getting this interview with the elders and being able to finally make a difference. But after our conversation at dinner, my head has just been fuzzy. Like, I just don’t feel right any more. It doesn’t feel right…this life. How could it have felt so natural a few days ago and now feel like I’m a stranger in my own home?”
“That’s good,” Tommy said. “You don’t ever want to be complacent. Back in my dimension, this same woman wanted people to be ignorant. Not questioning her actions. It makes me think that maybe the same thing is happening all over again, but this time we just can’t see the person or thing that wants us to be ignorant to what’s happening.”
“We don’t know if anything is happening,” Jeff said.
“Of course it is!” Peyton cried. “Kal had a perfect recollection of what happened and yet, our versions were different. Just the other day he told me he had memories of Fortitude’s beginning. Kal is special, you guys.”
“We’ll talk to him,” Jeffrey said. “But his father is just human so it doesn’t make any sense how he could have these abilities.”
“Maybe it’s from Graciela,” Peyton said. “Or maybe, it’s something else we can’t comprehend. You have to keep your mind open. That’s my platform, keeping an open mind.”
“Speaking of your platform, come on,” Tommy said, standing up. “I’ll give you a ride. You don’t want to be late for your interview.” He shot his dad a look, but Jeffrey seemed preoccupied with his own thoughts.
Kal rushed to the door, throwing his arms over the man who he called his father. “Dad! You came here so quickly.”
“Of course,” Nolan said. “You called for me. I told you I’d always be there for you. What’s going on now? What’s the big emergency?”
“Nice to see you too Nolan,” Jeffrey said, walking into the room and placing a hand on Kal’s shoulder. “It’s always business with you, isn’t it?”
“I just want to know what’s bothering my son,” Nolan said. “I think that makes me a good dad.”
“I don’t know what Graciela ever saw in you honestly,” Jeffrey said, rolling his eyes. “You’re definitely not Leon.”
“No, of course not. I’m not a deadbeat who runs at the sign of trouble,” Nolan said. “But hey, I’m married to your daughter and not you. So I don’t much care about your taste in men.”
“Dad, please be nice….” Kal said quietly. “Grandpa is important to me. He’s let me stay in his home while you’re away.”
“Yes, of course. My apologies Mr. Bennett.” Nolan bowed his head in mock consideration. “Kal, why don’t you begin packing up? We can talk about your emergency on our way out.”
“Where are you going?” Jeffrey asked. “I need to know.”
“You don’t need to worry about it,” Nolan replied. “It’s finally safe for Kal to come with me. As his father, the custody falls into my arms until Graciela returns. Kal and I will look for her together.”
“No, absolutely not,” Jeffrey said. “You’re not taking him. He grew up here, with you visiting. You can’t just come and take him.”
“Why don’t we ask him what he wants,” Nolan replied. “Kal, do you want to come with me or did you want to stay with your grandpa?”
Kalmali looked between the two men. “I…I don’t know. What’s going on? Dad, why can’t I stay here?”
“I mean no disrespect to your grandfather, but he only has a fraction of his family remaining. He is no protector, and I can’t lose you. I care about you too much.”
Leon slammed his hand on the mirror. “No! No! Damn it. Don’t go with him, Kal! Don’t go with him!”
“He can’t hear you,” Maric replied, shaking his head. “All you’re going to do is break the magic mirror. I don’t have enough powers left to rig another one.”
“I have to get to him somehow,” Leon cried. “Kal really thinks that creep is his father. Nolan is just using Kalmali for his ties to the darkness. Why can’t he see that?”
“Kalmali doesn’t know he’s a product of the darkness,” Maric replied, looking around the small white room. “So how is he supposed to know he doesn’t actually have a father? I’m more concerned with how Nolan was able to brainwash everyone else, and where is Graciela in all of this?” Maric looked around the small room. There were no doors, windows, or openings of any kind. There was no way out of the sealed room.
“This was not the future I saw,” Leon said quietly. “This was not supposed to happen. None of this was supposed to happen.”
“You’re a pretty bad seer,” Maric said halfheartedly. “Oh come on. Don’t look at me like that. I’m trying to lighten the mood. Relax.”
“Everything is a joke to you, huh?” Leon asked. “Because this is no joke. The love of my life is out there somewhere without her memories. Without knowing who her son is or who is trying to weasel his way into her life.”
“I have an idea,” Maric said. “You and Gracie are bonded, right? Can’t you just transmit your memories to her or something?”
“It doesn’t work like that,” Leon said angrily. “Otherwise I would have done it.”
“You said you could hear the darkness when you were younger, right?” Maric asked. “We know the darkness has returned. So, can’t you try to appeal to it, to like transmit your words or something? There has to be a way to get your memories to her. Or to trigger hers, at least.”
“You’re the one with all these powers,” Leon said. “You can just get us out of here somehow. There has to be a way. ”
“I’m not that guy,” Maric said. “I was never Altiere. How many times do I have to explain that to you?”
“I saw it,” Leon mumbled. “You’re the guy who founded Fortitude. If you could just accept that’s who you once were, Graciela might have given you another chance. But, you keep deflecting. You keep refusing to dig down deep but you might surprise yourself and find the power we need to escape this and to get to Moonlight Falls and defeat your impostor.”
“Just because you saw some vision doesn’t make me that guy,” Maric muttered. “I have a mom and a sister. I was born in Fortitude.”
“Reborn maybe,” Leon scoffed. “I don’t know why you’d kill yourself and get reborn with no memories, but hey- here you are. So, start facing those facts. Facts confirmed by people who knew you back then like Briella and Dragos. It’s all right there!”
“It just doesn’t make sense,” Maric said, refusing to meet Leon’s gaze. “Nothing adds up.”
“That’s the only thing that adds up,” Leon said. “Instead of triggering Graciela’s memories, maybe we should be trying to trigger yours. You can get us out of here. I know you can. Just think about it, Maric. Why would a powerful vampire found a nation, head to Moonlight Falls, found another and then kill himself only to be reborn again back in Fortitude. Why?”
“You’re ridiculous,” Maric mumbled, walking away from Leon. “Why can’t that man just be my ancestor? Why do I have to be him? You’re not Lapis.”
Leon’s eyes grew wide for a moment. He clapped his hands together. “I never told you about Lapis, how do you know about him?”
“I…I didn’t say Lapis, did I ?” Maric asked, shocking even himself. “I don’t know, the name just left my mouth. I don’t know who that is.”
“Maybe if you read his diary,” Leon began. “It might trigger something. He mentioned a powerful vampire attacking his girlfriend and kidnapping her baby. I know that you’re not that guy right now, but you were at one point. Think Maric, why? Why do that?” But the man seemed even more troubled and confused.
Graciela contemplated how she’d approach Dionysus with her inquiries and admission that she knew where his son was. Though the elf was nicer than most people she knew, he terrified her. A fear washed over her that she hadn’t ever had about him before. Could he have really been around for all those years? How deeply entangled in her family’s life was he? After a few agonizing minutes, she admonished to simply banging on the door to his room. “Yes?” Came his sluggish voice, as if he had just woken up from a nice nap.
“It’s me,” Graciela said quietly. “We have to talk about a lot of stuff.”
She heard some shuffling but after a few moments, the door swung open and Dionysus stood there rubbing his eyes. “You’re back from your talk with Ellery. How did that go?”
“I want to talk about something else first,” Graciela replied hastily. “About Sophina Aguirre. Who is she? Why is she part of my family’s history? What went on between you two?”
Dionysus frowned, running his hand through his hair. “I don’t like to talk about her. But I suppose I owe you an explanation, don’t I? I haven’t been completely truthful with you.”
“Of course not,” Graciela cried angrily. “No one has, have they?”
“She’s my past,” Dionysus said. “Excuse me for not wanting to go back and drag up my first love.” He took a step back, ushering Graciela into his room. “You’ll want to get comfortable, it’s a long story. Where should I start?”
Graciela entered Dionysus’ room and shut the door behind her. “I know up until the part where you take Sophina to visit Dragos and Briella.”
“Ah, Indy and Briella actually. Indy was Dragos’ younger brother. Turns out that Dragos’ was chosen by the divines to hold a power that you’d associate with a genie’s. It’s a long complicated family story, but essentially the divines promised the Draknar family that one of the children born to the line would be blessed and entrusted to help them. Dragos was given that power so Indy had to take over as prospective king.”
“What do you mean by divines?” Graciela questioned. “Like gods or something?”
“Exactly like gods or something,” Dionysus said. “Divines are gods that work in ways we could never even imagine. If they call upon you, you must oblige no matter how much you’re against it. You can’t tell them no.”
“Why not?” Graciela asked.
“Because then you end up like me and the others you met, cursed.” He threw his arms up in the air as if it was no big deal but she could see it in his eyes that he was upset about dredging up the past. “Anyway, let me just tell you what happened with her. I hope it helps you in some way.”